World’s Best Bassin’?|
By Steve Carpenteri
Maine is full of secret treasures, and one of these is the black bass. Once despised, bass are now revered (the next world-record bass will fetch a reported $25 million for the lucky angler). Bass clubs and tournaments are common and both are on the increase in Maine and across the country. Not bad for a fish that was considered “trash” just a generation ago.
My career as an outdoor writing hobo has taken me all over the U.S. in search of great hunting and fishing destinations in every state. After 50 years, Maine still leads the pack in bass-fishing opportunities. Certainly there are larger smallmouths in Lake Erie, and world-class largemouths in Florida and California, but for numbers of fish and ease of fishing you can’t beat the Pine Tree State. I have fished from the banks of the Penobscot, Piscataquis, Kennebec, Pleasant, St. Croix, Ossipee, Saco, Sebec and many other Maine rivers in June and have caught bass on literally every cast, in most cases using the same lure all day. The same kind of hot action can be enjoyed from a kayak or canoe while fishing the shoreline of any Maine lake that contains smallmouths. If you want largemouths, Stetson Pond and the Cobosseecontee complex has ‘em, including specimens to 10 pounds and more. And, you don’t need a $40,000 bass boat to catch them.
June is the peak of spawning time in Maine which means any water’s breeding-sized bass will be found close to shore, often in mere inches of water. They fish build and guard their nests while the eggs are laid and hatch. Black bass of both species are very attentive and aggressive toward intruders at the nest. Woe betide any other fish, snake, turtle, frog or similar predator that thinks a hoard of bass fry will make an easy meal. Bass are happy to chase and eat any interloper. Enter the fishermen with his assortment of crankbaits, streamers and plastic imitations, and for a few short weeks the fishing is incomparable.
Truth be told, bass are among the easiest of game fish to catch. Just about anything in the tackle box will be attacked with vigor. In fact, many times I have challenged fellow anglers to find something a June bass won’t take – it’s never happened. If it can be attached to a swivel and tossed into shore on rod and reel a bass will respond. It doesn’t even have to look like anything remotely “natural;” make it splash, make it move, and a bass will try to eat it.
To simplify matters, I fish with the same small arsenal of bass lures I’ve used since the mid-1960s. My favorite lure (when weeds are not a problem) is a 3-inch silver Rebel or Rapala floating minnow. Next is a ¼-ounce gold Mepps bucktail spinner. Equally effective is a yellow Mr. Twister Teeny spinnerbait, and my last resort (when fishing amongst weeds, fallen trees and other obstacles) is a weedless version of the Jitterbug. I caught bass with them 50 years ago and I caught bass with them last season. Always faithful, always productive, never fail. Bass are that predictable – and accommodating!
Of course, anything small, flashy, splashy and energetic will get a spawning bass’s attention. Throw it out there close to shore, pause for a few seconds, and then start reeling. If a bass is there you’ll have him by the third turn of the reel handle. If it’s a hit-and-miss pause again, start reeling and hang on. If the fish does not respond, let the spot rest for 30 minutes and try again. Bass seldom miss their prey a second time.
The fun will continue well into July when the spawning season ends, the bass fry leave the nest and the adult fish head for deeper, cooler water.
There’s no need to travel to find excellent bass fishing. Maine has it all and the time to go is now!
Steve Carpenteri has been bass fishing in Maine since bass fishing wasn’t cool.
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